Following a recent conversation on the Stroud Steiner Free School Initiative facebook page on Friday I am left wondering if the group really are naïve about the influence the Steiner Waldorf Schools Fellowship (SWSF) will have on their school if it opens. I asked whether non-anthroposophical members of the group would have a problem conforming to the requirements of the SWSF.
The exchange was as follows;
Steiner initiative; “We are not going to be dictated to by the SWSF so no, there is no problem.”
Me; “But the SWSF have anthroposophy requirements and your school will need to be accredited in order to use Steiner name and your proposed school is already registered with them as an interest group.”
Steiner Initiative; “That does not mean we will necessarily use the name or the SWSF. We are only an interest group at present.”
Now, this raises a question – does the person running this fb page really not know what the SWSF say regarding free school initiatives?
Here is the SWSF statement in the criteria from their website;
Initiative groups intending to apply to the government via the “Free Schools/Academy route would need to apply for endorsement of their proposal by the SWSF before submitting their application to the Department for Education. Endorsement is additional to registration as an Interest Group & this should precede a “free school” application. Without endorsement, a free school would be in breach of the SWSF trademark & no such applications can be authorised.
The group have been endorsed by the SWSF, otherwise they would not have been able to apply to the Department for Education.
The group have now stated they will re-apply for their free school in October, so these issues are important. In case the person answering my questions really hasn’t familiarised herself with the SWSF website, here are some more details;
Before setting up as a school, an initiative group should establish contact with two Waldorf educators (normally colleagues employed in a full member school & supported by their Collegiate to undertake this responsibility) who, with the agreement of the SWSF Council are prepared to act formally as mentors.
This has been done, whether or not all the group are aware of the fact…perhaps the “mentors” have been taking care of dealings with the SWSF without worrying the heads of the parents who are “leading” the bid. I will probably be accused of making assumptions here – the usual cry of Steiner supporters – but how else can we explain the seeming ignorance of those in the group about what the SWSF endorsement entails?
As well as stipulating the use of “Child Study” and Eurythmy in all Steiner schools the SWSF say in their criteria that there must be “…commitment to & understanding of the fundamental principles of Waldorf education, in particular the Waldorf curriculum”.( page 5)
They also list questions the SWSF will want answers to when they visit, including this one;
|What features of the setting make it one in which Waldorf education is experienced as enlightened, spiritually-informed & human-centred? (page 20)|
Another requirement is that “The methodology and curriculum is determined and developed through a processs of individual action and deep reflection (including meditation) by the relevant members of staff” (page 19 membership criteria)
Finally, there are consequences for non-compliance with the requirements;
In the event of an Associate member either failing to progress its accreditation appropriately, or being deemed to fall short of basic standards, the SWSF Trustees reserve the right to reassign the setting as “Under Review”. A setting under review will be deemed to have effectively returned to “provisional membership”. An Associate under review would need to produce an action plan with an agreed time scale to remedy its shortcomings. Failure to do this in any particular could lead to a debarring of the setting. “Under Review” status can, subject to the decision of Trustees of SWSF, also be applied to any organisation failing in its duties as a member setting (page 6)
So come on, Initiative Group, tell us. Are you willing to conform to the rules or not? And if not, and you are not using the Steiner name, you need to tell parents what kind of school this will be. They have signed up to an official Steiner school, not some other random mish-mash of New-Age, colourful but mysterious, unregulated nonsense .
How many of the group are aware of what is really going on with this application?